Over­seas Walks: Step­ping out on the Galapa gos is­lands

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Judy Simp­son

What’s that in the mid­dle of the road? It’s an enor­mous tor­toise. Stop the bus! It was huge and asleep. There was an­other one on the side of the road and watch out, the poo is equally big! Don’t step in it.

So here we are, rock­ing a bit and the en­gine is noisy but we are so tired af­ter out 3.30 am wake up that I think we’ll sleep any­way? 20 peo­ple in the group so the boat is full.

The whole cabin is about as big as our din­ing area but is on the top deck, noth­ing but the best for us girls, with a large win­dow. The bath­room is smaller than a friend’s pantry. Much smaller. Have you ever slept in a slightly mov­ing ham­mock with a 10 ton truck idling be­side you? In spite of it we will sleep. A little rock and roll in the night when I thought if I turn over I’m on the floor. The bed is so very nar­row.

And that is our in­tro­duc­tion to four days vis­it­ing sev­eral of the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands.

This af­ter­noon we drove off over the hill for 45 min­utes to the Dar­win Cen­tre where they are do­ing their best to see that the giant tor­toise and big yel­low land lizards last us out. We seem to have done our best to nearly “ex­tinct “them.

The land lizards are such a pretty yel­low, gold colour and about two me­tres long. Just two of them and they seemed to be ig­nor­ing each other. I sup­pose it was great to see the ef­forts be­ing made to en­large the stock so to speak but we’re glad we saw that tor­toise, along the road­side.

We walked quite a dis­tance and saw sev­eral of those black­ish ma­rine lizards. None of them were spit­ting. Shame . A good spit is what is ex­pected ex­cept it’s from their nos­trils.

We had time for some shop­ping as we strolled back to the port. Sur­pris­ingly about 30,000 peo­ple live on the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, 15,000 in the port of Santa Cruz. We saw some beau­ti­ful sou­venirs but re­sisted the im­pulse buys as we had ad­ven­tures ahead.

It was up at 6.30am, break­fast at 7.30am. and then off and away in the


We al­ways park out in the bay and no wet land­ings yet. To­day we have seen dol­phins, mon­ster bright red crabs, rather large yel­low land lizards, Gala­pa­gos pen­guins. Pen­guins at the equa­tor, very odd. A bit big­ger than our little blues. More ma­rine lizards and a mag­nif­i­cent dis­play from the frigate birds that scram­bled over our boat wait­ing for scraps.

We walked in the morn­ing and it was very hot. A bit like in the Aus­tralian desert. That’s where we saw the land lizards. So hard to spot, but one was con­ve­niently snooz­ing about a yard off the track.

We walked again in the late af­ter­noon. Would you be­lieve up 369 steps plus a board walk up to the sum­mit of an ex­tinct vol­cano. Only 180 me­tres but it felt per­pen­dic­u­lar. Thank good­ness for our train­ing regime.

The views were amaz­ing and be­low we could see quite clearly the rim of an un­der­wa­ter crater.

In the af­ter­noon we all went snorkelling. I didn’t feel that con­fi­dent hav­ing shrunk from wa­ter for the last good­ness knows how long. So one of the French guides took two French ladies and my­self out with him. He just gave that little bit of bravado. Mag­nifique. Lots of sil­ver, trans­par­ent fish, some ze­bras and a little team of An­gel fish. But wait for it. A tur­tle and a pen­guin, swim­ming up close.

It’s all very in­ter­est­ing in that we have al­ready been to two is­lands and both were quite dif­fer­ent.

This morn­ing was dry with lots of mag­nif­i­cent cac­tus and trees that look dead but will burst into leaf af­ter the first rain next month. Acres of dried grasses and a little green from the leaf like stems of some trees.

In the dis­tance the “dead” trees look like fog in the val­leys.

This af­ter­noon we climbed up to the crater rim of a small is­land. The is­land is only 1000 years old. Very re­cent ac­tiv­ity so was all lava, lava flows and craters. A bit moon like.

No wa­ter any­where and the few plants, creep­ers just looked dead ground cover. If you were ship­wrecked there you died!

In the af­ter­noon it was too cold for us to snorkel so we stayed on the boat. It had its pluses as we saw six sea tur­tles float past. They stick their little heads up and have a look around and then sev­eral dol­phins gave us a great dis­play very close to the boat. Even the cap­tain came out shout­ing.

We saw a huge st­ingray, black with white spots and sev­eral sharks cir­cling around. The crew in­sist that they won’t bite hu­mans but I wouldn’t like to con­front one when snorkelling.

Sud­denly a huge frigate bird almost de­cap­i­tated us and landed on the rail­ing be­side us. Oh my good­ness.

This morn­ing, hav­ing sailed to an­other is­land, we walked along a red beach, with quite coarse sand and came across sev­eral, sea li­ons bask­ing.

One young fel­low was frol­ick­ing in the waves and putting on a good cir­cus act. They look beau­ti­ful in the wa­ter but a bit dis­grun­tled on land.

We are able to go within two me­tres of any an­i­mal, bird what­ever. The pel­i­cans , grey not white like the Queens­land va­ri­ety, were feed­ing madly very close to shore. The beach fell away very quickly so they were div­ing within me­tres of us.

But then.........what we came for ?? Blue Boobys. Such blue feet . Very very bright light blue. Sit­ting there on the

rocks mind­ing their own busi­ness and call­ing and whistling to the op­po­site sex. Whoops, what was that.... They don’t just drop their poo, they shoot it out with great force. You wouldn’t want to be in the fir­ing line as its jet pro­pelled.

It is fas­ci­nat­ing to watch them feed­ing. Like the pel­i­cans they were feed­ing very close in be­side where we were walk­ing.

This af­ter­noon we walked on an­other beach, this time with amaz­ingly soft sand, like tal­cum pow­der . Ev­ery is­land has been dif­fer­ent. We saw ghost crabs, bright red and very quick to dis­ap­pear. They left won­der­ful mark­ings on the beach. They chew up their din­ner and then spit out the sand and waste in tiny little balls. The ground looks like an Abo­rig­i­nal paint­ing!!

Our last morn­ing! Up at 5am break­fast at 6.30am, on a zo­diac at 7.30 am and off to find tur­tles, sharks and st­ingrays. Not snorkelling thank you!

We pushed our way into a man­grove swamp and were im­me­di­ately sur­rounded by sharks, some quite big.

Then it was tur­tle spot­ting. First little periscope heads ap­peared then the whole shell. A deep breath and they are gone again. The sting rays were harder to spot, black with small white dots. We spent an hour drift­ing, us­ing oars to be si­lent. It was lovely to be in the quiet.

The man­groves were much big­ger than ours, quite old with proper trunks. Even­tu­ally, out we popped to find some more blue footed boo­bies right up close.

What a mag­nif­i­cent ad­ven­ture and far too short as there were many more is­lands to ex­plore.

It wasn’t quite a “David At­ten­bor­ough” ex­pe­ri­ence but then we didn’t have months to wait for that pho­to­graphic mo­ment. We walked ev­ery day and although it was very hot we all felt com­fort­able in the dry heat. It’s the hu­mid­ity at home that is so try­ing.

If you have the op­por­tu­nity to visit the is­lands, don’t miss it.

Above left: Bask­ing in the sun­shine. Be­low left: I could be nearly 100 years old.

Step­ping out on the Gala­pa­gos is­lands

Above left: Rest­ing in the sun­shine. Above right: Ev­ery is­land was dif­fer­ent. Be­low left: Gold land lizards. Be­low right: Bright red crabs ev­ery­where. Op­po­site page be­low left: Two blue boobys up close.

Above: Noth­ing grows here. It’s all lava. Be­low left: Our home for five days.

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